Ayrshire health bosses are urging women not to ignore their cervical screening invite.

A drive is underway to highlight the importance of the test, which screens for the human papillomavirus virus (HPV).

To mark Cervical Cancer Prevention Week (January 17-23, 2022), healthcare professionals across Scotland have reinforced that the cervical screening test now offered is more sensitive, screening for HPV – the main cause of cervical cancer - to help ensure any cell changes are identified and treated earlier.

As the test is more effective, those who are found to have HPV will be invited for screening every year, so any cell changes can be closely monitored, and referred for further investigation and treatment if needed.

Those whose test sample shows no signs of HPV will be invited for their screening appointment in five years, as evidence shows the chance of developing cervical cancer during this time is very low.

Lynne McNiven, director of public health from NHS Ayshire & Arran reassured women about testing for HPV and encouraged those eligible to attend their smear test appointment when invited.

She said: “Even if everything feels fine, it’s important not to ignore your smear test invite as it can stop cervical cancer early.

“HPV testing, which is carried out as part of your smear test, is much more effective and sensitive, helping identify those at higher risk of cervical cancer much quicker.

“It takes a long time for HPV to develop into cervical cancer, so it’s very rare for a woman who doesn’t have HPV to develop cervical cancer within five years.

“If HPV is found as part of your smear, please try not to worry. HPV is very common, and you’ll be invited back every year to monitor any cell changes, before they could potentially develop into cervical cancer.

“It’s understandable to feel anxious about the smear test itself, but the five minute test is the best way of preventing cervical cancer, so please don’t put it off.”

Cervical screening is routinely offered to anyone with a cervix in Scotland between the ages of 25 and 64 every five years.

For more information on cervical screening, visit nhsinform.scot/cervicalscreening and you can also visit www.jostrust.org.uk/hpv for information on HPV.